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A Conversation with The Good Room about Brisfest, creativity during 'rona and the importance of staying connected

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A Conversation with The Good Room about their upcoming works in The Brisbane Festival

A Conversation with The Good Room about Brisfest, creativity during 'rona and the importance of staying connectedNext up on our local artists segment is (drum roll please)... The Good Room. They are a Queensland-based performance collective who use the experiences of ordinary people to create extraordinary theatre works, as part of a process that blurs the line between 'audience' and 'maker' to explore theatrical collective authorship. Theirs is an investigation of empathy, connectedness, stakes and sacrifice. Mirrorballs, rose petals, panda suits and party dresses stud our theatrical universe but totems of party, play and celebration are often subverted; this is richly affirmative, highly contemporary, and widely accessible theatre - underpinned by rigour, ethics, and deep consideration.

The Good Room is an ensemble of makers with practices that span artforms. We are Lauren Clelland, Daniel Evans, Amy Ingram, Tara Hobbs. Here's what they had to say about their upcoming Brisbane Festival productions and how COVID has impacted (and continues to impact) their creative practice.

VIRAG: Before we begin this interview, I thought I'd congratulate you both on your creative residency at Brisbane Festival, which is just fabulous. How did you score this wonderful opportunity?

THE GOOD ROOM: The Good Room was slated to present a major work this year called Let's be Friends Furever but it unfortunately had to be postponed due to COVID. Brisbane Festival have been fantastic however and submitted us to still develop the work in 2020 as a a part of Working Title. We also then worked with them on what we could still present inside a reimagined 2020 festival. We looked at what work we could create amidst COVID restrictions and also what kind of experiences people will be hungry for come September. We have always had a good relationship with Brisbane Festival but this year let's just say our friendship has reached the next level!

A Conversation with The Good Room about Brisfest, creativity during 'rona and the importance of staying connected
VIRAG: As a massive fan of The Good Room, I was so excited to see that you guys are doing not one but two shows in this years Brisbane Festival: You Don't Have To Put On Your Red Light and One Bottle Later. What was the creation process like for both of these works? Did it involve lots of zoom meetings?

THE GOOD ROOM: OH YES ALL THE ZOOM MEETINGS! While restrictions were still heavily in place the team had many many MANY Zoom meetings to discuss not only all of the work that had to be postponed / cancelled but how we could still present something this year. We have one collaborator Lauren Clelland in Melbourne ( and she is still there! ) and I had come back from New York so I was in quarantine for two weeks. So ZOOM was getting a very good workout from us! It all happened very fast to be honest! We were in constant creative contact , and working across Zoom meant that we had to conceptualise a little differently as we are all used to being in a room together. We planned as much as we could in ZOOM then as soon as we were allowed to see each other in person we concentrated our developments more on user experience ,testing and trialing how these new ideas could work.

We are still refining the shows and to be honest they are still being made as I type this! This process is a lot quicker than our usual creation, development and rehearsal stages often spanning across 1-2 years! But there is something great about creating new work under such a time pressure cooker and we are certainly getting yo try things we wouldn't normally so we welcome the challenge!

VIRAG: Both shows are quite different but, from what I've read, share this common theme of connection; whether it be sharing a drink with a stranger or listening to a stranger share a raunchy experience over the phone. Did this shared theme emerge or was it planned from the start?

THE GOOD ROOM: Yes from the beginning we talked about connection and intimacy as driving ideas behind the new works. We were noticing what was happening across the world - people were no longer allowed to touch, we were having to spend more time staring at a screen to see each other and we personally thought that by the time September hit we would be ready to want to feel a connection with people agan beyond a zoom meeting. We just hoped that we wouldn't be alone in this assumption.

We describe Red Light and One Bottle as " Radical acts of intimacy" . One concentrates on intimacy in your home and the intimacy of exploring your sexuality while the other work explores the intimacy of conversation, or sharing a space together.

We wanted people to feel a connection with one another again and while we may be encouraging intimacy in unconventional methods... Perhaps we need a little risk attached to push us all towards each other again as we move out of our isolation bubbles.

A Conversation with The Good Room about Brisfest, creativity during 'rona and the importance of staying connected
VIRAG: I feel like no interview exists anymore, especially when interviewing artists, without touching on the subject of co-vid. How has co-vid and being in lockdown impacted The Good Room?

THE GOOD ROOM: Look it has defined our year! The arts sector was decimated with thousands of jobs lost and income thrown down the toilet. We all have had to take stock and try and reconcile with the complete unknown that is 2020 and most likely 2021. We have had to concentrate on what we can control and achieve this year and The Good Room like so many other companies have also looked for ways we can support other artists. We have noticed The Independent theatre sector in particular have worked incredibly hard and fast to come up with new employment opportunities and modes of creating and generating work.

While COVID has placed massive stresses on our company and it's individuals it has given us opportunity to try new things and take stock of what we do and realise our immense value in the sector. We will continue to seek out new work and hopefully create more jobs and opportunities for our fellow arts makers along the way.

VIRAG: How can we support artists and companies such as yourself during this time, other than obviously coming to see your two wonderful shows?

THE GOOD ROOM: Just stay engaged with us. See our work. Buy tickets to our shows. If you like the work then tell people . Encourage people to value the arts. REALLY think about who you are voting for in the next election

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From This Author Virag Dombay